Foreplay with Eric Wood even though Susur Lee thinks he’s “Chopped” liver

I went to the Beverley hotel yet again for lunch with a colleague. I was going to blog it right away until I heard that chef Eric Wood was going to be on Chopped Canada.  I figure I’d wait to see if I could boast that I dined at the restaurant of a Chopped champion.

Ironically enough was the fact that Wood was taking on Bryan Birch from Barque, another place I managed to hit in the last year.  With two very different styles and figured it would come down to the ingredients and the moods of the judges. What I didn’t expect is how moody they could be…

I’ve reviewed the Beverley twice already. I like it because it’s relatively quiet, has a nice ambiance, takes reservations and has a menu that can appeal to the masses.  I started with the Butternut and Tarro salad.  I enjoyed the balance of the sweetness of the squash and dates with the flirt of acid in the dressing.  The tarro and beans offered a great textural contrast and an earthiness to this unique salad.

Butternut and Farro Salad $9
Butternut and Farro Salad $9

Eric Wood is know for his 4 play; a structural sound square meal; a snapshot of his id and ego on any given day.  Typically, it’s an appetizer, salad, main and dessert.  On this particular day, it was shrimp and mussels in a coconut broth, a sage and sunchoke gnocchi, an heirloom tomato salad with pressed ricotta and a sea buckthorn cheesecake with grape jelly.  Foreplay like this makes me want to put out.  The shrimp were delicious and were cooked to perfection.  The gnocchi was nicely caramelized and was far from boring. Although I’m not a huge tomato fan, the cheese compensated  and I really liked the dressing.  The dessert hit the spot as well although it was a little sweeter than expected.  I wanted to be totally overcome by the delicious tartness of the fruit especially in the midst of the super sweet jelly.

4 Play lunch $16
4 Play lunch $16

My Take

Chopped Canada is a double edged sword.  In one sense it can assign subjective culinary supremacy to any of a number  of aspiring and established chefs.  On the other hand it can be a shot to the ego and reputation if one were to lose.

Eric Wood’s appearance on Chopped Canada was consistent with his restaurant philosophy: respect for ingredients  highlighted with bold flavours. Despite this, Susur Lee couldn’t see the forest (in particular morel) mushrooms through the peas.  From the minute Eric missed the infamous snack cake on the plate, Susur had it out for him.  Perhaps it was some kind of king vs queen street rivalry or maybe a textbook  example of workplace bullying, but it struck me as odd.  After sulking about the snack cake, Susur went off on Eric’s blue rare duck, his accusations of making excuses, missing tahini, roasted morels that had the texture of leather and the inappropriate use of cardamom dust with key lime pie. Meanwhile, he turned a relative blind eye to things like overcooked salmon offered by other competitors.

Three’s a charm at the Beverley. In a sense, it has become my go to for a reliable place with a relevant and diverse menu in a beckoning environment.  In particular, the 4 play is a fun spin on a lunch special, featuring the freshest ingredients used to construct  a tongue-tickling portrait of a complete meal. There is a wide diversity of appetizers including the tasty butternut and farro salad.  Perhaps chef Lee should drop by the Beverley hotel for a little 4 play and if  he’s still grumpy after that, maybe he should just get Bent.

Review:Windsor:Honey Badger Bistro

The honey badger is a legend, an animal that has stepped into folklore with its ruthless attitude.  Some call it the Chuck Norris of the animal kingdom.  So, I was intrigued to sample a bistro which pays homage to this iconic creature, especially when it appears with a glass of wine and ready for a fight.  There weren’t ruthless looking patrons strewn across the small bar.  Instead, it was a plain looking place with tables donning burgundy tablecloths and plain walls minus a few posters telling me that “You’re the sugar to my tea”. How sweet!

The feared  wine drinking honey badger
The feared wine drinking honey badger (don’t be fooled by the hipster sweater)

I was with a friend  who is a cool version of three of the top 44 worst person in every restaurant (ironically she is also the one who sent me the article).  For the record, at times I can be classified at times as sad solo diner. My defense is that I travel a bit and don’t have the energy to ask my friends to indulge in my frequent culinary endeavors.  And yes, I do look at my phone a lot. I’ll get back to her in a second.

http://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/the-44-worst-people-in-every-restaurant

The menu would suggest it could be classified as a gastropub despite the fact it is called a bistro. There’s everything from small plates to sandwiches to burgers to poutine.  There are often gourmet twists on standard fare, with offerings  like mashed cherry jam and 40 creek mayo scattered across the menu. There is lots of meat and lots of bread, which means lots of gluten, a point which brings me back to my lunch companion.  If you didn’t click the link above, she is the cool version of each of the following:

The Substituter
“I’d like the salmon, but instead of the corn, can I get the braised cauliflower from the steak dish? And instead of the frisee salad, can I get that appetizer you used to have in the ’90s, but with a different type of aioli? And instead of the salmon, can I get thrown through the plate glass window in the front of restaurant?”

The Gluten-Free Evangelist
Stop giving us murder eyes when we go for the bread basket. No one cares what it’s done for your “energy”.

The Guilt-Tripping Vegan
Is the exact moment I bite into my steak tartare really the time to bring up that expose you just watched on what really happens behind the scenes at slaughterhouses? Doesn’t matter — I’m going to enjoy it even more out of spite.

So, a  gluten loving porkivore and a fish-eating, non-dairy consuming psuedo-vegan who neither guilt-trips nor evangelizes but does substitute enter a Windsor bistro  and order roasted butternut squash soup without cream, candied yam fries, a salad and a honey badger reuben.

The candied yam fries ($8) were insanity in a bowl.  The sweet potatoes were piled with torched mini marshmallows and topped with what the menu calls a a brown sugar drizzle.  It was more like a gravy, seasoned with  savory flavours like oregano.  Despite the odd sound of this combination, it was actually quite delicious, especially as the marshmallows melted into a delicious fry coating goo shortly after the picture was taken.  The fries were cooked well and the whole concoction was not overly sweet.  It was a pleasant surprise.  Even better, it was appropriate for a sort of vegan.

Candied Yam Fries $8
Candied Yam Fries $8

The reuben was also well executed.  The marble rye bread was grilled crisp and was cooked enough to allow the swiss cheese to melt thoroughly.  The brisket was tender and the unique addition of the forty creek mayo and brusselkraut (saurkraut made with brussel sprouts) was a delicious twist.  The side salad was pleasant as well, dressed lightly with a balsamic dressing. It was a huge sandwich (mmmm. gluten and meat) for a reasonable $12 and I managed to enjoy a little more than half of it before throwing in the towel without so much as a evangelist or guilt-tripping stare from across the table.

Honey Badger Reuben $12
Honey Badger Reuben $12

As for the soup, I only had a bite.  It was okay…but I think it needed cream.

My Take

I was hoping for a T-shirt saying “I survived the Honey Badger” but instead left with a stomach full of a decent meal. The menu is casual but well thought out and executed.  The yam fries were extreme and the reuben blended an old-school classic with an eclectic spin. The soup needed cream.  As for the ambiance , it was a bit drab and certainly didn’t match the exciting food. Either that or I walked into my first ever (and probably last) beestropub.

PS. Thanks to Windsor Eats  (www.windsoreats.com) for posting the menu online.  Another example of the comradery which exists in this  tight-knit culinary community.

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